The heat wave this month drove us to drink. And after sampling the city's craft cocktails to cool off, we found better weather and Memorial Day weekend offered plenty of excuses to keep right on toasting.
The cocktail revival is still raging in Los Angeles, and it's easier than ever to find carefully crafted and well-balanced hot weather classics – like a Moscow Mule in a cold copper cup, a crisp gin and tonic, or a fresh margarita on the rocks. But many of our city's talented bartenders are also playing with more adventurous seasonal mixed drinks. Here are five delicious cocktails to enjoy this summer, whether you need to transform a hot day into a “tropical” one or just want to celebrate the season with some day-drinking.
5. Phuket at Mohawk Bend
The Phuket (Bummer and Lazarus gin, cilantro, lime juice, Thai chili, lemongrass twist) is reminiscent of a simple bowl of Thai soup – light and fresh with a hint of spice – but instead of fish stock the broth is made of bracing gin. Bummer and Lazarus gin is spicy and citrusy and made in small batches at Raff Distillerie in San Francisco's Treasure Island. We may take our soup this way from now on. 2141 W. Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles; 213-483-2337.
4. La Vitamine at Pour Vous
Talented barman François Vera was inspired by smoothies from his native Brazil in creating La Vitamine (Avuá Cachaça, creme de banane, avocado, lime juice, orgeat syrup, salt). Between the fruity banana, rich avocado and sweet almond orgeat syrup, we can imagine having this drink for breakfast. If you're not a fan of sweet drinks, there are plenty of classic cocktails on the menu here as well. But for those who like the sound of an alcoholic Brazilian smoothie, this treat is for you. 5574 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles; 323-871-8699. (Editor's note: the spelling of this drink has been corrected since initial publication.)
3. Beer & Loathing in Los Angeles at Cliff's Edge
Cocktails at Cliff's Edge are consistantly interesting, and one of the most refreshing of the current bunch is the Beer & Loathing in Los Angeles (Pisco Capurro, Byrhh Grand Quinquina, pineapple shrub, lime, rosemary, IPA). The Hunter S. Thompson pun gets double play in the drink with both the IPA and the Byrhh (pronounced like “beer”). But the drink has just as much to do with wine, since both the Pisco Capurro and Byrhh are made from wine and often served as apéritifs, making this a great before-dinner choice. Reminiscent of a michelada, the Mexican beer cocktail, and the Peruvian pisco cocktail the Chilcano, this mix of spirits with a rosemary accent can please both beer and wine lovers. Head Bartender Richard Swan let us know he's currently updating the drink with an apricot rosemary shrub in place of the pineapple for a “subtle but lovely improvement.” 3626 W. Sunset Blvd.; Los Angeles; 323-666-6116.
2. Refreshing at Bestia
We can't imagine summer drinking without Campari, and the Italian bitter is still enjoying a strong upswing in popularity. At Bestia in downtown L.A., the Refreshing (Campari, Cocchi Americano, lime juice, evaporated cane sugar, seltzer) is a gentler, pinker Campari cocktail. With Cocchi Americano, another Italian apéritif that has a growing fan base in America, and a dash of seltzer, this drink is lighter than a Negroni but more exciting than a Campari and soda. 2121 E. 7th Place, Los Angeles; 213-514-5724.[
1. On the Make at Roger Room
A pioneer in the city's speakeasy bar scene, the Roger Room is both fancy and laid-back, striking a balance between craft and no-nonsense in their cocktail style. On The Make (Bulleit rye, apricot liqueur, egg white, peach bitters) carried over from their spring cocktail menu to the new summer list. Strong rye and fruit liqueurs with frothy egg white make this drink a mix of fun and dark flavors, rather like the dim and friendly bar itself. 370 N. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles; 310-854-1300.